Three times he drops something. His keys, his lunch sack, and his keys. Again. He steps off the bus and starts to cross the street but pauses to check he’s not missing anything. Just as he pauses, a green sedan makes a right hand turn without any care and would have flattened him. When the Fates tap your thread three times, it always pays to pause for a moment.
It is an outfit that most would scoff at. Her shoes, the least startling of the lot, are a matte black with a chunky inch-high heel and woven straps that encase her foot in a cage of leather. Her dress is an embodiment of chaos. A riot of three different purples and, at least four greens, a slash of highlighter yellow, with a smattering of periwinkle and farm silo gray. All in a combo of paisley and plaid and sunburst patterns, and, scattered flower designs that look like they were conceived by a Venusian’s idea of Earth. Taking the effect to the next level of madness, she has accessorized with a massive, chunky gold link necklace, which reminds me of the chains worn by Jacob Marley. Like the proverbial cherry on top, she has silver and turquoise earrings and, amazingly, a sparkly rhinestone hair comb, in the serpentine shape of a gecko.
Before too long, an elderly gent, perhaps in his late 80’s, slowly finds his way to the seat beside her, with kindly assistance from the ridership at the front of the bus. He winces with each step, and, as he sits, a small cry of pain escapes his lips and he settles next to her. She turns to him, smiling gently and with such compassion, my throat catches. They begin to talk quietly and he visibly relaxes and the scrunched corners of his eyes and the tightening in his mouth become smoother and the visage of pain lifts from his overall demeanor. And the colors in her dress shift, slightly at first, and then, there is a deepening of the shades, and a new swirl of maroon appears. Empathy often comes with a price to those who take on the pain of others. But fortunate are those in need who find themselves seated next to an empath who also has a dress run up by the House of Anodyne.
Caught between a suited sleep-deprived gent whose head is drifting perilously close to her shoulder, and a no-inside-voice 30-something berating her friend over the phone for some failure at Sunday brunch, the woman endures.
A new rider leaps aboard as if he’s the Pirate King ready to sing (about himself, of course), and he knocks the ill-sealed beverage held by a toddler in her stroller, and it splashes the remaining apple juice on the woman (and all those within several feet). And still, she endures.
Just before we reach downtown, a Sullen Teen sitting behind her, with a beanie pulled down just to his eyes, gets overly excited about a Pokemon Go capture, and he erupts into a bout of epic hiccups.
And the woman has had enough. Wild-eyed, she jolts to her feet and pushes, wheedles, cajoles, and bullies her way to the door at the front of the bus. Panting and disheveled, the instant the door opens, she bursts from the bus like rifle shot.
We may never know what, exactly, pushed her to the brink, but when they do, get off the runway, baby, she’s taking off.
Making some assumptions about the amount of time he spent getting ready this morning, he must have set his alarm for 3:30 a.m. Perched, ever so, on the edge of a seat, so as not to muss the tailored edge of his jacket, he is a study in gray. His bespoke jacket and trousers, both a dark charcoal, complement his waistcoat, which is a faint herringbone of a lighter fog gray, combined with a green found at the edges of an evergreen forest. A slightly lighter gray-striped shirt rests beneath, adorned by a tie, beribboned in peridot and slate. Perfectly shined Oxford brogues, in a gray so dark as to be almost indistinguishable from black, are resting on the floor of the bus; you can almost feel the anxiety emanating from his beautiful shoes as they touch the less-than-immaculate bus aisle.
His face is ageless. He could be twenty or sixty. A tightly trimmed beard and mustache, gray like the steam of a locomotive, adorn his face, and resting against his nose are wire-frame glasses, shining in the morning light, nary a smudge or a scratch on their lenses. And lastly, like a wreath on Caesar’s head, a perfectly trimmed crown of short hair finishes the look, itself a mourning dove gray color.
The look on his placid face is one of patience with a slight tinge of boredom. It makes sense. During his off-season, the avatar of the winter sky has nothing but time to get dressed and ride the bus.
It’s a small. Lilliputian, really. So much so, I thought I had a smudge on my glasses rather than seeing what I’m seeing.
The backdrop for this smallness is an average sized gent, wearing all black, including a fedora. The hat, to be honest, is no longer really black, but has taken so much of the world onto its crown and brim, that it is the color of rich, nutrient-filled soil. The man is puffy in countenance, as if stuffed with something mushy, like oatmeal or over cooked risotto. His unwashed light brown hair drapes from under his hat, reaching and cascading over his hunched shoulders. And his mud colored eyes are small and disturbing as they look upon the ridership with a vacant, almost hungry gaze.
Tucked into the wide ribbon band encircling the hat is the aforementioned very small being. Roughly speaking, it’s human shaped. It has a head, a torso, two arms, and two legs. But that’s where the similarities end. The head and face are more like burls and knots in a tree trunk, and the appendages at the ends of the teensy arms are curled and wicked looking. I can hear it, quietly singing to the man, despite there not being any sort of mouth.
People think gnomes are cute. They dress them in frippery and cast them in plaster for their gardens. But the gnomes from deep within the earth are cunning and malicious. And their golem-lore, the ability to craft large, soulless beings to do their dark bidding, is vast and truly frightening to behold.